Home > Turn to Me (A Misty River Romance #3)

Turn to Me (A Misty River Romance #3)
Author: Becky Wade

 

 

Prologue


NOVEMBER

Finley Sutherland’s father had left her several things in his will, the most surprising of which was a clue.

“But . . . I don’t understand,” she said to Rosco Horton, attorney-at-law.

“Your father planned a treasure hunt for you.” Mr. Horton leaned forward over his impressive potbelly, huffing at the exertion, to extend a white envelope to her across his desk. “He stipulated that you be presented with this, the first clue in the treasure hunt, at the reading of his will.”

She accepted the envelope, instantly recognizing her father’s handwriting and the thick flow of black ink from his favorite fountain pen.

For Finley, he’d written on the outside.

“He asks that you store the envelope in a safe location,” Mr. Horton said, “and wait until the morning of your next birthday to open it. When is your next birthday?”

“January.”

“Do you think you can resist peeking until then?”

“Absolutely.” It felt sacrilegious to even consider violating a request left for her in her dad’s will.

Finley held the envelope carefully, aware of the attorney’s attention on her as she looked down at it in her lap. Her father had named Mr. Horton the executor of his will. And since she was the only child of a bachelor, he’d named her his sole beneficiary. After the will cleared probate, she’d inherit his property, bank accounts, investments, and assets. And yet this—a simple envelope—was the thing stirring both grief and wonder within her.

Her father had died suddenly in prison one month ago.

She hadn’t expected him to speak or write another word to her. Yet through this mysterious, surprising letter, he’d found a way to continue communicating with her. For Finley.

“Your father told me that he used to create birthday treasure hunts for you when you were growing up,” Mr. Horton said.

She raised her face. “Yes. Every single birthday before I left for college, he’d send me on a treasure hunt to find my gift.”

“Sounds like a nice father-daughter tradition.”

“It was.” Memories rushed like a film reel through her brain. Her gasps of discovery when she’d solved one of his clues. His deep chuckle. The patter of her feet as she’d race to see if she’d guessed the location of the next clue correctly. Tearing away shiny pink paper to reveal the dollhouse he’d given her when she turned seven.

Astonishingly, her father was reaching out from the grave to give her one final gift.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE


JANUARY

This wasn’t the first time that Luke Dempsey had been burned by his belief in the concept of honor among thieves.

This was only the most recent time.

When he’d been burned in the past, he’d told himself he wouldn’t put himself on the line again. But in time, his conscience would butt in where it wasn’t wanted. He’d put himself on the line. Then pay the price. Then tell himself all over again that he’d learned his lesson.

This time he really had learned his lesson. For the final time.

On this cold, overcast Wednesday morning, Luke set his jaw and walked from his parking space toward Furry Tails Animal Rescue Center. A black metal roof topped the dark gray modern building that occupied several acres on the road leading east out of Misty River, Georgia.

He’d waited a long time to be free. In fact, he’d spent all seven years of his incarceration meticulously planning his future. The second he finished his obligation here, he’d move to Montana and build a house with a view of mountains and big sky. From his home office, he’d launch a career in software and website development.

He’d walked through the rooms of his Montana house in his imagination so many times, furnishing every square inch, that those rooms had become more real to him than the rooms of his childhood home. He needed to get to Montana and begin work. His old life had been stripped away, and his new start was the only thing left that mattered to him.

But thanks to his inconvenient sense of honor, he first had to keep his promise to Ed Sutherland. Until he made good on that, he’d be stuck here, in the hometown that reminded him a hundred times a day of the worst thing that had ever happened to him.

He let himself inside the building.

No one waited in the foyer. The Furry Tails logo—a stylized dog inside a circle—had been painted in white on the slats of wood covering the wall opposite him. Four chairs surrounded a coffee table. On top of that sat a few small pots of cacti and a stack of ASPCA Action magazines. The air smelled like pears and dog. A baby gate guarded the bottom half of a door that led to a concrete hallway and the distant sound of barking.

Frowning, he tapped the bell resting on top of the magazines. He hadn’t even started his first workday here, and irritation was already infecting his mood.

He waited. No one responded to the bell, so he punched it with his fist. It rang loudly.

“Coming!” a feminine voice called cheerfully from the back.

According to Furry Tails’ website, Finley had started the non-profit eight years ago out of her house while working a full-time day job. Six years ago, a local farmer had donated the use of his barn as her headquarters, and she’d become the organization’s first paid employee. Two years ago, Furry Tails had built and relocated to this facility—

A woman sailed into the room. She was young, beautiful, and dressed like a hippie in a strange felt hat with a wide brim. “May I help you?”

“My name’s Luke Dempsey. I’m here to see Finley Sutherland.”

She smiled. “I’m Finley Sutherland.”

His body tensed in surprise.

She extended her hand. He shook it.

“It’s great to finally meet you,” she said.

How could this be Finley?

“Welcome to the Furry Tails team.” Stepping away, she stuck her fingers into the tiny front pockets of her bell-bottom jeans. Her head tilted. “Were you expecting someone older?”

“Yes.” Much older.

“That’s a common response when people meet my dad before they meet me.”

“He was in his eighties.”

“I was born when he was fifty-two. You’d think that more children would have resulted from all of those passionate love affairs of his.” She shrugged. “But no. He only had me. And fairly late in the game.”

Ed’s nickname had been Mountain Man. He’d had thick white hair. A white-gray beard. His features were strong and even, but his skin had been deeply lined and permanently tanned.

Luke would never have expected Ed’s daughter to look like this. Skin as pale as the moon. Bright blue eyes. Long black hair. Around five foot eight with slender limbs. Her beige sweater looked like it had been knitted by a person instead of a machine. She wore brown clogs and gold rings on almost every finger.

Why would anyone wear a hat indoors to work with animals? Her body was perfect, though. And those lips—

Stop it. He needed to think straight. It’s just . . . How could this be Ed’s daughter? “How old are you?” he asked bluntly.

“I’m about to turn thirty.” She beckoned him to follow. “Come. Let me give you a tour.”

They walked past the baby gate, which she clicked closed behind them.

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